The Hunter, by Julia Leigh

Reviewed by Alex Marshall

The Hunter is an extremely interesting first novel from one of Australia’s up and coming novelists. I found this book a gripping and intriguing read from the first page to the last, despite the fact that the novel focuses upon the inner life of one character who does not have a strong attachment to the outside world. The plot is very simple. A mercenary is sent to search for the fabled Tasmanian Marsupial Tiger, or Thylacine in the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness. If he finds this animal he will become very rich.

Like many great Australian novels,The Hunter focuses upon the individual’s relationship to the wilderness which he both depends upon to survive and which he also resents, hates and fears. He knows that he is a stranger to this place. As the silence of the wilderness grows around him the more the central character – who the reader only knows as ‘M’ – journeys into his memories that still haunt him.

In many ways M. is the classic Aussie male; silent, taciturn, inarticulate, single mindedly focused upon his work, unconscious of the outside world. But unlike the stereotype, ‘M’ is an individualist, he is not interested in reliance upon mates, nor does he believe in sharing with others, such as scientists or environmentalists his discovery of a thylacine. For him this is just a job, and what happens after the dog has been sold is not his concern.

Julia Leigh, who is probably more recognised outside of Australia than within, has created a novel that deceptively unravels the place of the Australian male psyche in a globalised world.

The Hunter, by Julia Leigh
Penguin, 1999